Ferrari ready to unveil Alonso

New deal could force Raikkonen to join Hamilton at McLaren next season
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The Independent Online

As Ferrari plan to announce the signing of Fernando Alonso for 2010 very soon, their injured driver Felipe Massa is preparing to race again in a Brazilian karting event amid rumours that he might participate in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 1 November.

The 28-year-old Brazilian sustained serious head injuries during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July after being struck on the helmet at high speed by a spring which had become detached from the rear of fellow countryman Rubens Barrichello's Brawn-Mercedes, which was running ahead of him. Massa has since undergone surgery to insert a titanium plate in his forehead, and is said by close friends to be "bored and restless and ready to go racing again".

Ferrari's team principal, Stefano Domenicali, said on Sunday evening in Singapore: "He is doing every day a check with his doctor, but not an official medical check. He is working hard on the training and next week he should go into the karting activity."

Massa is also expected to travel to Europe in the week prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on 18 October – when he is scheduled to make his first public appearance since the accident – in order to conduct a session in Ferrari's Formula One racing simulator in Maranello.

"It is too early to say that he might race this year," Domenicali continued. "We need to see it step by step, and we don't have to anticipate anything. He will be back 100 per cent but there is no need to anticipate anything if there is something that is not ready. I don't want to exclude anything, but we need to be cautious."

Another Ferrari spokesman added: "To be honest, it is unlikely that Felipe will race in Abu Dhabi, and there is no point to be in a hurry, But in Formula One we can never say never."

Ferrari may finally confirm their deal with Alonso as soon as this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, as they are known to be anxious to sort out their programme for 2010 now that the Renault "Crashgate" scandal has finally been laid to rest. The other factor that has delayed the announcement is the need to disentangle themselves from an ongoing contract with the 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, which has another year to run, clearing the way for the Finn to return to McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's partner. Domenicali said: "I think that as soon as we are ready we will let you know. We don't want to wait too long. Suzuka is a possibility, but it is not guaranteed."

The Alonso announcement is likely to trigger a raft of driver confirmations, among them Robert Kubica moving from BMW-Sauber to take Alonso's place as Renault team leader alongside McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, and Nico Rosberg moving from Williams to Brawn. The latter are still arguing over financial matters with Jenson Button, who was tipped to win the 2009 title by the McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, after Sunday's race in Singapore.

If Button stays, Barrichello is expected to take Rosberg's place at Williams, but if terms cannot agreed with Button there is a chance that Barrichello could stay at Brawn, with Button's only alternative being to go back to Williams, the team that gave him his Formula One break back in 2000.

Chain reaction: Main drivers in the reshuffle

Fernando Alonso: Cleared after 'Crashgate', Spaniard likely to join Ferrari at end of season

Felipe Massa: Recovery from head injury leaves Massa in line to return to Ferrari, joining Alonso and forcing out Raikkonen

Robert Kubica: May leave BMW-Sauber and take Alonso's ride at Renault

Heikki Kovalainen: McLaren driver may become No 2 driver to Kubica at Renault

Jenson Button: If he fails to agree a new deal at Brawn, may move to Williams

Nico Rosberg: Now at Williams, Rosberg may join Brawn if Button leaves